TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2012
More than a million women will go through a divorce this year in the United States, if Census Bureau figures stay similar to last year’s. The emotional and psychological toll cannot be measured, but the financial impact often can.
In addition to the outright costs of a divorce that can be viewed on a spreadsheet, there are hidden financial bombs, that if not acknowledged or addressed, can explode and destroy a divorced woman’s carefully reconstructed future.
There are myriad financial traps that divorcing or divorced women face. I’m going to highlight just a few to watch out for:
If your spouse was the one that carried the health insurance benefits (and the company has more than 20 employees), then you may be eligible to continue the coverage under COBRA for 36 months. During that time, you may find employment that offers health insurance coverage, or you can look for individual coverage in the open marketplace. The latter solution becomes difficult if you have a preexisting condition. Some states do have a guaranteed program that waives a preexisting condition if you are coming from another plan. However, much is up in the air with health-care reform, so it’s best to talk with an agent to understand your options.
If you were covered as a dependent under your spouse’s group plan, you’ll need to check to see if the benefits are portable (meaning you can continue your coverage if you pay the premiums) or if the coverage terminates when you are no longer a dependent. If you are in good health, it makes sense to find out if an individual policy purchased on your own is a better deal. It may be less expensive than carrying over the group coverage. If you have a health problem, it would make sense to keep the group benefits, if that’s possible.If you have an individual policy you may be OK, although it’s smart to review the amount to make sure it is adequate for your dependents, given your new marital status. Also, in all cases, check your beneficiaries to make sure your ex-spouse is no longer listed, unless that is your intention.
Another common mistake is not to review the beneficiaries of a qualified plan (your retirement account). According to federal law, your spouse is the default beneficiary of your plan, unless a waiver is signed. When you go through a divorce, you need to make that change. Otherwise, if something were to happen to you and you were remarried, for example, your ex-spouse not your current spouse would get the money.
Disability insurance, which provides income if you become sick or injured and unable to work, becomes critical when you are single, as your support system has been cut in half. There is no longer that second salary or the same amount of savings and investments to rely on if something were to happen. This coverage can often be obtained through your work; keep in mind that this coverage ends when your job does. Or you can purchase an individual policy on your own. Either way, the key is to know before something happens what kind of coverage you have and how much of your income it will cover.
In your 50s? Long-term care insurance
If you are in your 50s, it’s smart to look into long-term care insurance. Historically the most financially challenged people have been older, divorced women, because they have fewer Social Security benefits from often having been out of the workforce and many times do not have a pension. Long-term care insurance is there for you if you need care, so you won’t have to tap into money set aside for your retirement.
To receive more information about any of your policies, contact the experts at Insurance Planning Service today by calling 800-220-8852 or using our online contact form.
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012
Now more than ever, you need to take the time to review your health plan to ensure you’re not leaving money on the table. Going on “auto-pilot” during open enrollment season can be costly mistake. A survey from Kelton/eHealthInsurance shows that workers tend to be lethargic about selecting their benefits for the following year and this can bite them in their wallets. Here are some tips to help you save money on your health insurance.
1. Review all your options. Review every plan available from your employer as soon as you receive your open enrollment packet. For good measure, check your options in the individually-purchased health insurance market, too. While group plans may still provide more robust coverage and will cover pre-existing medical conditions, individually-purchased plans may offer a stronger alternative than they did a couple years ago.
2. Shop smarter. If possible, enroll in a plan that only covers the services you need: It may mean a lower monthly premium. For example, a plan with robust maternity coverage may not be the best match for single guy. And if you don’t care about brand-name drugs, see if you’re offered a plan that covers only generic drugs instead. Choosing a high deductible plan may be smart for some individuals and families because it typically reduces monthly premiums, but be prepared to pay the amount of the deductible in the coming year as health-care needs arise.
3. Consider a Health Savings Account. Many employers offer a high-deductible option with an HSA. Some may even contribute to the HSA for you. Depending on your health-care usage, this can be a good option for saving because money can be deposited pre-tax in your HSA to cover unexpected health expenses not covered by your health plan. Unused savings can also roll over year-after-year until retirement.
4. Mix and match, if appropriate. Depending on your own and your family members’ health and how much an employer contributes toward dependent coverage, it may be less expensive for certain family members to be on a separate, individually-purchased health plan. Do the math on separate policies if there are special needs. It’s easy to price individual and family plans online. But remember that it’s possible to be declined coverage for an individually-purchased plan based on an applicant’s medical history, so don’t cancel an existing line of coverage until you’re approved for a new one.
5. Look for innovations in the individual market. If you can no longer afford employer-based health insurance, or if your employer plan doesn’t meet your needs, look for some new options in the individually-purchased health insurance market. Carriers in some states are offering incentives for you to avoid over-utilizing your coverage. For example, some may substantially reduce your deductible next year if you don’t use up your full deductible this year; others may incentivize healthy habits by sending you gift cards and other rewards for positive health outcomes.
6. Track your health expenses. Regardless of what plan you choose for 2012, be sure that you are tracking all of your health care costs including insurance premiums, copayments and drug expenses. This will give you the knowledge you need to evaluate your health insurance choices for 2013.
You can count on the knowledgeable experts at Insurance Planning Service to help you wade through the sometimes-confusing health insurance market. Call us today at 800-220-5582 or use our online contact form.
Article Source: lifehappens.org
Photo Source: lifehappens.org
THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2012
It’s a rite of passage for college students to don cap and gown and march for graduation ceremonies- in fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly 1.8 million students will graduate with a bachelor's degree in 2012. As those 1.8 million make the transition from undergraduates to careers, pursuit of advanced degrees or back into mom and dad's basement, it's critical that they understand how walking across that stage may have changed their insurance needs.
While every individual’s needs are unique, here are five basic insurance coverages that all college grads should consider, to see if they apply:
A shiny new car, whether owned or leased, holds appeal for newly employed college grads. Auto insurance helps cope with the expenses of accidents, vandalism or theft. A lender or leasing company that finances the vehicle will require auto insurance. Car accidents can create large liabilities for a driver, so the liability portion of auto coverage helps protect the bank account. Plus, auto insurance covers many legal expenses if a driver is sued. If a graduate who already owns a car is moving, where they keep and register the car, especially from one state to another, can impact coverage. It's important for new graduates to let their insurance agent know about these moves to make sure their current coverage will still apply, or if they'll need a new policy.
Under the new federal health care law, children can remain on their parent's health insurance policy until age 26. With unemployment and underemployment high among those in their early twenties, this can provide many recent grads with health insurance until they are able to get it through their employer or an individual policy. Individual policies can be pricey and differ significantly in coverage, so talk with a Trusted Choice® insurance professional about what makes the most sense.
Homeowners or renters insurance
College grads starting out may not own a home yet, but may rent a residence. To make sure their possessions are protected, homeowners and renters insurance offer comprehensive coverage whether at home or traveling. Liability insurance included in renters and homeowners coverage also helps protects against the risk of being sued. There usually are limitations on renters coverages within a group house—a typical post-graduate arrangement—so it is important to understand the details of a policy.
New grads may find a job with an employer that offers group term life insurance coverage. However, those with children may find it worthwhile to buy additional term life insurance or permanent life insurance, which builds cash value over time.
This is a vital but often-overlooked insurance coverage. It provides income when a person is injured or disabled, whether on the job or off. A Trusted Choice® insurance professional can calculate the right amount of coverage to help a person live while recovering.
New college grads may want to lean financially on their parents’ insurance coverages as long as possible (though mom and dad might feel a little differently!). While that makes sense, it’s not always viable. For instance, auto insurance companies will require an owner or lessee of a car to carry their own coverage. There are plenty of insurance policies out there that new grads won’t need, unless there are special circumstances, such as air travel insurance, contact lens insurance or cancer insurance. Typically, it is better to have comprehensive policies like renters or health.
Parents of new graduates also should take this time to review their own insurance portfolios, as there may be opportunities to reduce their premiums when child moves out of the home.
INSURANCE PLANNING SERVICE is a Trusted Choice® insurance professional and we can help new grads and their families navigate these waters, to provide sensible coverage that won’t break the bank. Call us today at 800-220-5582 or use our easy Contact page. We're eager to help!
Article Source: Trusted Choice
Image Source: Microsoft clip-art
Posted 11:30 AM
Tags: michigan auto insurance, michigan car insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, graduation, college grad, health insurance, medical insurance, travel insurance
MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2012
The economy is improving, but many of today's grads will likely struggle to find good jobs with employer-based medical benefits. Additionally, the looming Supreme Court decision and the 2012 presidential election may create more uncertainty about consumer health insurance options and the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In order to help young adults and their parents navigate their health insurance alternatives and find the best coverage options in the current environment, we have found the following tips specifically for 2012 college grads:
1. Consider all your options. The three most common forms of coverage for college grads include employer-based plans, individually purchased plans, and coverage under a parent's policy. Each comes with special considerations:
Employer-based health insurance - These plans often provide rich benefits, and monthly premiums are split between employee and employer. No one can be turned down for employer-based coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions. However, not all employer plans are created equal. Weigh your employer's coverage options carefully and make sure you know how much will be taken from your wages and applied to your monthly premiums.
Individually-purchased health insurance - Young and relatively healthy grads should be able to find individual coverage at relatively affordable prices. Health care reform improved key aspects of these plans by doing away with lifetime coverage limits and improving access to many preventive medical services. A licensed agent like Insurance Planning Service can provide you with free quotes and help you compare plans. Keep in mind that you may be declined if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions.
Health insurance coverage through a parent - Health care reform made it possible for children to stay on a parent's health insurance plan until age 26. However, if you live in different state than your parents, your benefit levels may be severely reduced. Parents may also need to actively re-enroll adult children every year. If you're offered coverage from your own employer, you could be dropped from your parent's plan.
2. Watch out for changes to the health care reform law. If you hadn't heard, the Supreme Court will be ruling on the constitutionality of the law this summer. This fall's presidential election could impact the law's prospects too. If it's struck down or radically altered, the provision of the law allowing young adults under age 26 to retain coverage under a parent's plan could be invalidated too. Be prepared and make sure you understand your other health insurance options in case things change in 2012.
3. Go Mobile. If you're like most young people, you spend many of your waking hours staring at a smart phone. There are some great apps out there that can help you find coverage, track your health, and manage your health care spending.
4. Fill in the gaps with supplemental insurance. If you buy a high deductible health insurance plan, consider accident and/or critical illness insurance too. These plans can help you cover out-of-pocket costs if unexpected medical costs arise, and they're relatively affordable. In case of a qualifying event, they pay you directly, not the doctor. A bit of extra cash might come in handy if you're in the hospital facing steep medical bills, a high deductible, or other personal expenses.
5. Think about why you need coverage -- and for how long. Many young adults only want a health insurance plan that will provide back-up coverage in case of a serious injury or illness. Others may only need something to cover them for a few months until employer-based coverage kicks in. Either way, short-term health insurance may be a good option. Short-term coverage typically lasts up to six months at a time and does not cover preventive care, prescription drugs, or pre-existing medical conditions. Even so, it can still provide meaningful protection in case of unexpected hospitalization.
6. Don't be afraid of high deductibles. Some health insurance plans with lower monthly premiums tend to come with higher annual deductibles. High deductibles shouldn't necessarily scare you away from these plans, however. If you're relatively healthy and don't visit the doctor often, a high-deductible plan may be right for you. Just be sure that you could afford to pay the full annual deductible in case of an unexpected injury or serious illness. Take a look at the annual "out-of-pocket limit" too: that's the true maximum amount you could be required to pay for covered services in any given year -- including copayments and coinsurance as well as your deductible.
7. Think about FSAs and HSAs, and know the difference. An FSA (Flexible Spending Account) is set up by your employer. Money from your wages can be deposited into an FSA on a pre-tax basis and used tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses, including copayments, deductibles, and things like glasses or contacts. Any money left in the account at the end of the year reverts to your employer. An HSA (Health Savings Account) is similar but differs in important ways. HSAs are used in conjunction with qualifying high-deductible health insurance plans. Money can be deposited into the account on a pre-tax or tax-deductible basis to pay for the same kinds of medical expenses. But the account itself and the money in it belong to you and can accrue and earn interest year to year. Many employers offer HSA-eligible health insurance plans and some may even contribute to your account.
8. Don't go without health insurance. Healthy young people who almost never get sick often imagine they don't need health insurance. But you do need it. When you're fresh out of college your financial future is less than assured. An unexpected illness or injury could put you in a huge financial hole if you're uninsured. Don't hamstring your financial future before it even starts by going without coverage.
We can assist you in wading through the options! Contact Insurance Planning Service today at 800-220-5582 or via the web using our convenient Contact Us form!
Article Source: eHealthinsurance.com
Image Source: Microsoft clip art
SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2012
Generics account for 75 percent of meds prescribed in America. Do you know the real costs?
Are generic drugs cheaper?
Not always, and not by as much as you might think.
"If you check drugstore.com, the difference is huge—say, $30 for generic versus $200 for brand name," says Dr. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist for RTI International, an independent research institute. "But if you have insurance, the difference may not be so big—maybe $3 versus $12."
With some drug plans, brand-name meds may actually cost less than their generic equivalents. This happens, for example, when major drugmakers negotiate deals (often after losing their patent) to offer meds at a discount, Kamerow says.
Your move: Use a prescription drug calculator, available through your insurance provider, to easily compare prices for your plan. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offers a Top 100 Generic Drugs Calculator.
Are generic and brand-name drugs the same quality?
Usually. However, "most of our generic drugs come from large overseas manufacturers in India or China," says Kamerow. "There may be questions about the integrity of the product—whether it is what they say it is."
For example, in 2009, the FDA took action against the generic-drug company Ranbaxy Laboratories for lying about test results at a facility in India. It's largely an issue of logistics: The FDA would need 9 years to inspect eligible foreign facilities once (at the 2009 rate of inspection), according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. In a 2009 survey of pharmacists, 95 percent said they feel a generic drug's country of origin affects its safety.
Your move: You can check the FDA's MedWatch (fda.gov/safety/medwatch) to see if any quality issues have been reported for your medications. If you're concerned, Dr. Kamerow also suggests inquiring about "branded generics," or generic drugs produced by brand-name drug companies; these make up about 25 percent of the global pharmaceutical market.
Do generic and brand-name drugs use the same formulas?
No. They have the same active ingredient but sometimes contain different inactive ingredients. "It's uncommon, but a patient may have an allergic reaction to the inactive ingredients in one and not the other," Kamerow says.
"Or, more likely, the active ingredients will be absorbed in your body slightly differently." For drugs that require precise blood levels—such as certain antifungals, antibiotics, and blood thinners—even a small difference in absorption might alter their effect, he says.
Your move: Ask your doctor if your drug has a "narrow therapeutic window." If it does, Kamerow suggests that you avoid switching from a brand name to a generic and vice versa—or even from one generic to another—unless you have blood work done to establish a new dosage.
Your doctor is always the first person to talk to when discussing medication. However, the health insurance experts at Insurance Planning Service can help you determine if your health insurance policy covers certain medications, both name-brand and generic. Call us at 800-220-5582 or use our online contact form today!
Read more: Fox News Health